Senate endorses Kensington Mine

Juneau Road does not receive solid support

Posted: Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Alaska Senate on Friday decided not to endorse the controversial Juneau Road, but went ahead with an endorsement of the more widely supported Kensington Mine.

Sen. Lesil McGuire, R-Anchorage, sponsored Senate Resolution 8, calling on Gov. Sarah Palin to ensure the many permits for the mine, owned by Idaho-based parent company Coeur D'Alene, remain active.

McGuire sponsored the resolution because the Juneau Senate seat is currently vacant.

The mine is awaiting a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court on its waste disposal permit, which was earlier overturned by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

"We're urging the governor to immediately implement those permits, should the Supreme Court rule in favor of Coeur and the Kensington Mine," McGuire said.

Sen. Con Bunde, R-Anchorage, said completion of an access road up the east side of Lynn Canal would provide an economic benefit to the mine.

The road's permits were overturned by the court after its Environmental Impact Statement was found to be inadequate for failing to consider additional ferry service instead of a road.

McGuire said she supported the road, but it was a different, and controversial, issue.

"It's a wholly separate creature," she said. "The resolution as it stands right now is clean, and has solid support."

An amendment to add support for the road failed, with only Sens. Bunde, Gene Therriault, R-North Pole, and Tom Wagoner, R-Kenai, voting in favor. All other senators opposed it.

The resolution supporting the mine passed unanimously, however. The House of Representatives passed a similar resolution Thursday, voting 39-0.

That resolution calls Kensington a "showcase project that would help address the Obama administration's concern for economic recovery and employment of Americans."

"This is a statement of support for Kensington," said Rep. Cathy Muñoz, R-Juneau, who sponsored the resolution.

The delays caused by the holdup in court mean some of the more than 70 permits the mine has obtained may be in jeopardy, Muñoz said.

Co-sponsor Rep. Beth Kerttula, D-Juneau, said the resolution supporting Kensington will help renew those permits.

"This is a very strong industry and historic industry in our part of the state, and it has been going through a very long path," she said.

Kerttula said the goal of the House's resolution is to see that "at the end of the lawsuit, they are up and running as quickly as possible."

• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 586-4816.

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